Defensive Letdown

WINSTON-SALEM – Things certainly seemed to be according to script Tuesday night at Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum – at least for the first 20 minutes of North Carolina State's 86-84 loss to Wake Forest.

Less than 48 hours removed from a four-point home win over Clemson, the Wolfpack (15-4, 4-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) entered the night having won five straight over the Demon Deacons – including its last two trips to Winston-Salem.

And it wasn't so much the length of the streak as it was the domination N.C. State had exhibited in those five previous match-ups that seemed to tilt things heavily in its favor: The ‘Pack won those games by an average 21.4 points, including a 30.5 margin of victory over Wake Forest at Joel Coliseum.

Things were on pace at halftime, with N.C. State leading 47-35 thanks to a 55.6-percent shooting effort and 18 points from its bench.

A plethora of issues arose after the intermission, however, ranging from foul trouble to poor shooting and shaky ballhandling. Fifteen of Wake Forest's 51 second-half points resulted from eight ‘Pack turnovers. The two teams also shot 33 free throws in the second half, with the Demon Deacons hitting 11 out of 18.

That allowed Wake Forest to not only overcome that halftime deficit, but mount a back-breaking 12-0 run that lasted nearly three minutes and culminated with the Demon Deacons leading 82-72 with 3:50 to play.

"Defensive let-ups," said N.C. State's Rodney Purvis, who finished with 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting. "At halftime, I think we got a little bit too relaxed. We were playing really well in the first half. We were playing really good team defense, but in the second half we kinda began to let up. We started getting beat off the dribble a lot, no help side (defense).

"And the refs really weren't letting us play -- there were a lot of fouls called in this game. I'm not blaming the refs for the fouls or anything like that, I'm just saying there were a lot of whistles blowed and that kinda hurt us."

In addition to scoring his 1,000th career point, Richard Howell also notched his 11th double-double of the season and 24th of his college career.

Howell, a 6-foot-8 senior forward, finished with 13 points on 6-of-11 shooting while pulling in a game-high 16 rebounds (nine of which came on the offensive end, contributing to his sixth-straight double-digit rebounding game).

He's only the 10th player in school history to score 1,000 points and collect 800 rebounds in his career.

But after hitting a jumper to make it 70-68 Wake Forest with 8:05 to play, he didn't score again and took only one more shot after picking up his third foul of the game with 6:18 remaining (a missed put-back attempt when there was 4:27 to go).

Howell was joined by teammate Lorenzo Brown in the century club when the 6-5 junior guard made a layup with 11:06 remaining in the game.

Brown, like Howell, had 13 points as well as a game-high 10 assists. He now has 482 careers assists, tops among active ACC players.

When including teammate C.J. Leslie, who earlier this year collected his 1,000th career point, and Scott Wood (last year against San Diego State during the NCAA Tournament) it means N.C. State is only the ninth team in league history to have four players on the same team who have reached the 1,000-point club.

It's the first time a quartet of Wolfpack players in the club have played together.

But on Tuesday, Brown – again like Howell – was also stymied by foul trouble, picking up his fourth with 10:33 to play. He was hesitant to implicate officiating in the ‘Pack's letdown.

"I can't really answer that question," Brown said. "I'll let the people decide on that one."

The announced attendance was 11,542, despite much of the upper arena appearing empty during the game.

That ended up being immaterial, however, as the floor was nearly covered from end to end in black and gold after the final buzzer when Wake Forest fans stormed the floor to celebrate their first victory over N.C. State in their last six meetings.

Pack Pride Top Stories